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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"


merely to write a single perfect sentence! Only a genius or a million-
aire can afford such colossal expenditure of time. I shall never be a
millionaire, and I have long to live yet before I can proudly tell the
customs inspector, as Oscar Wilde told him on entering the United
States, "I have nothing to declare except my genius!"

Even a secretary, although a valued and essential help, cannot
relieve the pressure sufficiently to diminish the burden markedly,
where the correspondence is so peculiar and so personal as is mine.
Yet the passage of time has mellowed my outlook and I have come
to take a more tolerant view of these letters. After all, except for the
few who are scarcely sane or mere autograph-hunters or common
curiosity-seekers or religious hysterics, most people do not break their
natural reserve and write to a sti anger about the difficulties in their
outlook on life or pose him their troubling spiritual problems, or,
perplexed, appeal for some inner guidance, unless there is a strong
and genuine urge to do so. There exists, however, quite a pleasant
side to the life of an author, A fair percentage of his letters intimate
what intellectual pleasure or spiritual help his readers have derived
from his literary efforts. No writer is so modest that he does not like
to receive such complimentary letters. They encourage him to go on
with such work and keep him from abandoning a precarious pro-
fession when far more lucrative activities are placed temptingly
before him. And when hostile reviewers denounce his books in print
as "literary offal" or as "nauseating nonsense", as they have de-
nounced mine, or impugn his truthfulness, as they have impugned
mine, he can smilingly forgive them and answer them with the
silence of indifference, whilst he picks up the large package of
letters wherein unknown readers have sent him their deepest grati-
tude and even heartfelt blessings for having written those books.

Not that many critics use such unflattering epithets as those
which I quote. Precisely the same work which receives such low
estimation from them has received high commendation from the
two best-respected journals in the world, The Times of London and
The New York Times. One can well suffer the former for the sake of
hearing the latter. But in any case I have built no altar to public
opinion. If the world can receive my thought, it shall surely please
me; but if not I shall remain undisturbed.

And now a fresh budget of mail has arrived. I cannot drag my
secretary here to share the utter loneliness of this isolated Himalayan
retreat, and so I must deal with every letter and every matter entirely
unafded. Indeed, I am sorry I have brought a temporary servant
even, for he, poor fellow, is getting a little restless and, reading his
thoughts, I see that he has begun to count the days till our departure,
I shall not receive a shock therefore if he stammeringly announces